Let women exploit EAC’s good investment climate
Never before has the East African Community (EAC) been so ripe for investment. The entry of DR Congo stretches the inter-governmental bloc from the Indian Ocean to the Atlantic, a landmass of unimaginable beauty and boundless resources. Home to 285 million people, the EAC has a combined GDP of about £240 billion as at 2021, presenting women entrepreneurs with myriad opportunities for investment and trade. It brims with mineral wealth—from precious metals to gemstones, semi-precious metals and industrial minerals. It teems with a wide variety of wildlife, beautiful beaches, good weather and an array of attractive natural features. The annual spectacle of 1.5 million wildebeest migrating between Kenya and Tanzania is one of the Wonders of the World. Its vast arable land produces some of the most sought-after teas and coffees and has a vibrant horticultural and flower farming whose products have a ready market worldwide. Lake Victoria and other lakes within the EAC, River Nile and the Indian Ocean are well-endowed with fish for viable trade. In recent years, the EAC has enjoyed good transnational roads, modern ports, airlines, electricity and telecommunications. That and relatively good governance add to its conduciveness to investment. The partner states are committed to facilitating an unrestricted flow of people, goods and services by removing barriers to trade and investment. The export and import of a variety of agricultural produce and manufactured goods has been liberalised. Underpinning the investment climate are policy imperatives like the EAC Common External Tariff (CET) that guides trade between the EAC and third parties; Elimination of Non-Tariff Barriers (NTBs), enacted in 2017 to provide the legal basis to ease the handling of non-tariff barriers; and the EAC Special Economic Zones Policy. Others are the EAC Single Customs Territory (SCT), One-Stop Border Posts (OSBPs) and the Private Sector Development Treaty. The EAC is engaged in African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) negotiations to expand its market to the continent’s 1.3 billion people in 54 states that have signed the agreement. Besides, the private sector in the region enjoys easy access to the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (Comesa) and the Southern African Development Community (SADC) through a tripartite Free Trade Agreement (FTA). It is not for nothing that the inaugural East African Women’s Business and Investment Forum, taking place in the UK this week, has correctly identified East Africa as a well-suited region for bilateral trade. So, what is there for women in all this? A lot. The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development prioritises women’s empowerment--captured in Sustainable Development Goal Number 5. This is the time for women business leaders to claim their piece of cake that is the EAC’s promise of a prosperous, competitive, secure and stable East Africa.